Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Wolf) vs Cardinals (Kelly)

JUPITER, FL - MARCH 12: Pitcher Joe Kelly #74 of the St. Louis Cardinals throws against the Atlanta Braves at Roger Dean Stadium on March 12, 2012 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

I took the afternoon off and read a book about a mystery-solving monk today. It was nice to think about something other than baseball for a while. Hopefully the Brewers won't make me wish I hadn't come back.

A series loss against the Cardinals would be a pretty serious blow to the Brewers' hopes of getting back into the race during this nine game stretch against divisional opponents, but that's what they're facing tonight unless they can get a win with Randy Wolf (5.80 ERA, 4.60 FIP) on the mound. The brewers are 5-12 when Wolf starts this season, and just 2-8 since May 11. Wolf last pitched in relief on July 7, allowing a run on three hits over two innings after Zack Greinke was ejected.

Pitching deep into games has long been the primary source of Wolf's value, but even that has taken a hit this season. He's failed to record an out in the sixth inning in five of his seventeen starts, tying Zack Greinke (who has three plus his ejection and start the next day) for the team lead. He's on pace to pitch 180.2 innings this season, which would be his lowest total since 2007.

The Cardinals beat Wolf in his first start of the year on April 8, scoring three runs on nine hits over five innings. Seven Cardinals have faced him ten times or more:

Rafael Furcal 61 .241 .246 .362 .608
Matt Holliday 52 .279 .404 .605 1.008
Carlos Beltran 44 .325 .386 .650 1.036
Yadier Molina 40 .250 .250 .425 .675
Lance Berkman 39 .094 .256 .156 .413
David Freese 24 .348 .375 .391 .766
Allen Craig 19 .105 .105 .263 .368

He'll face 24-year-old rookie righthander Joe Kelly (2.70 ERA, 4.32 FIP), who the Brewers are seeing for the first time. Kelly was a third round pick in 2009 and has spent most of the season with AAA Memphis, where he posted a 2.86 ERA over 72.1 innings. He was very good against the Marlins on July 8, allowing a single unearned run on just two hits and five walks over six innings.

In his 2012 Baseball Prospect Book, John Sickels said Kelly throws a "sandworm sinker" and labeled him as an "extreme ground ball pitcher." Here's an excerpt from his entry:

His slider, curveball and changeup are all decent, but his pitches (especially the fastball) move so much that his command within the strike zone often wanders. Kelly was seen as a reliever when drafted but has performed well enough as a starter that he could be an effective fourth man in the rotation down the line.

Kelly is facing the Brewers for the first time and is in his first major league season, so no current Brewers have seen him in the big leagues before.

Here's tonight's lineup:

Norichika Aoki RF
Carlos Gomez CF
Ryan Braun LF
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Corey Hart 1B
Rickie Weeks 2B
George Kottaras C
Cesar Izturis SS
Randy Wolf P

And in the bullpen:

John Axford pitched .2 innings (36 pitches) last night and also pitched on Monday.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched one inning (17 pitches) last night and also pitched on Monday.
Kameron Loe pitched .1 innings (3 pitches) last night.
Manny Parra last pitched on Saturday.
Jose Veras last pitched on Friday.
Livan Hernandez hasn't pitched since before the All Star break.
Tyler Thornburg pitched on Saturday and is expected to start tomorrow.

It's been another ridiculously hot day in Milwaukee today but it should cool down tonight. The temperature at game time is expected to be around 84 and fall into the high 70s before 10 pm.

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